|A Tribute to Robert Wise
From psychological horror to taut crime dramas to (his best-known
incarnation) sweeping musicals, director Robert Wise has made his mark on nearly
every film genre in sight. Because of this dexterity, its been harder to talk about
Wise as a director than about brilliant individual films. A closer look, though, reveals a
unique, deeply satisfying relationship between Wises highly polished surfaces and
the stubborn, all-too-realistic subjects hes tackled throughout his career.
Wise spent his early years at RKO Pictures, working as an editor on
a succession of films, from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME to (famously) CITIZEN KANE and THE
MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. Promoted to director halfway through production on THE CURSE OF THE
CAT PEOPLE, Wise learned fast and furiously, combining elements of Val Lewtons
gothic romanticism with Welles density of characterization. Wises 1949
masterpiece THE SET-UP is a synthesis of all these and more: played out in real time, it
traces the physical fall and spiritual emancipation of fighter Robert Ryan, making his
grim last stand in the aptly-named Paradise City boxing ring.
In Wises best films, a beautiful control of craft collides
with the lives of people who refuse to hand themselves over to fate. Susan Hayward in I
WANT TO LIVE!, Steve McQueen in THE SAND PEBBLES, even the whole human population in THE
DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL each resists the frame-up (and expert frame-work) of
their intended demise. The tension we feel in watching Wises films is often not
between the audience and whats on screen, but more complexly, with-in the screen
itself, as Wise attempts to throw a ring around his defiant protagonists.
Thursday, March 20 7:00 PM
Restored 70 mm. Print!!
THE SOUND OF MUSIC, 1965, 20th
Century Fox, 172 min. Dir. Robert Wise. For many, THE SOUND OF MUSIC is the 70mm.
experience, from the silent, sweeping shots of the Austrian Alps, to Julie Andrews
suddenly bursting into song like a force of nature. An Oscar-winner for Best Picture and
Wises flawless direction, THE SOUND OF MUSIC is a reason, a virtual commandment
to go see movies on the Big Screen. Co-starring Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Anna
Lee, Marni Nixon and Angela Cartwright, with a wonderful script by Ernest Lehman. Discussion following with director Robert Wise (schedule permitting),
Kym Karath, Heather Menzies and Debbie Turner, actor Duane Chase (schedule permitting).
Friday, March 21 7:00 PM
Actress Audrey Totter In Person!!
THE SET-UP, 1949, RKO (Warners), 72
min. Dir. Robert Wise. Trying to prove something to himself as well as his devoted
wife (Audrey Totter) who wants him to quit the game, over-the-hill boxer Robert
Ryan (in one of his finest roles) fights valiantly to win, not knowing that his sleazy
manager has set him up to take a dive. Enormously influential and ahead of its time, THE
SET-UP unspooled in real time -- a masterpiece of composition and editing
rhythms. With George Tobias. Discussion following with actress
Audrey Totter (schedule permitting).
Friday, March 21 9:15 PM
THE HAUNTING, 1963, MGM (Warners),
112 min. Dir. Robert Wise. "Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of
Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone
" Paranormal researcher
Richard Johnson leads a team of clairvoyants (Julie Harris, Claire Bloom) to
determine if the notorious, bad karma-filled Hill House is truly haunted. What he
doesnt bargain for is intensely neurotic Harris developing an unhealthy sensitivity
to the mansions evil-charged atmosphere. Based on Shirley Jacksons novel, THE
HAUNTING is one of the all-time classics of the genre. In supernatural Cinemascope! With
ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW, 1959,
MGM/UA, 96 min. Dir. Robert Wise. Bigoted ex-convict Robert Ryans
mistrust of partner Harry Belafonte undermines the heist plans of their ex-cop
leader Ed Begley, in this searing, underrated crime drama. With Shelley Winters, Gloria
Grahame. Russ Tamblyn WILL appear for a discussion between films
as was previously announced.
Saturday, March 22 5:00 PM
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD
STILL, 1951, 20th Century Fox, 92 min. Dir. Robert Wise.
Christ-like alien Michael Rennie arrives in Washington, D.C. with a one-eyed robot
to curtail Earths weapons of mass destruction before they can jeopardize the
universe. Patricia Neal turns in a memorable performance as one of the only human
beings attempting to understand him. With Billy Gray, Hugh Marlowe. With
special pre-screening (4 - 5 PM) Theramin (the instrument used to create the space sounds
in the movie) demonstration by musician Ed Sussman! Discussion following with actor Billy
Gray and actress Patricia Neal.
Saturday, March 22 7:45 PM
STAR TREK: THE MOTION
PICTURE, 1979, Paramount, 132 min. Director Robert Wise, ably assisted by
Jerry Goldsmiths stirring score and a special effects team that includes Douglas
Trumbull, John Dykstra and Ramon Sanchez, delivers the first STAR TREK film as a
2001-style epic, and a profound meditation on mans struggle to survive against the
negative forces in the universe. With William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest
Kelley, Walter Koenig, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Persis
THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, 1971,
Universal, 131 min. Dir. Robert Wise. James Olson, Arthur Hill, David Wayne and
Kate Reid are the core group of a scientific team attempting to turn the tide against a
deadly alien virus that has returned on a U.S. satellite, in Wises all-too-timely,
hackles-raising adaptation of the Michael Crichton thriller. Discussion
in between films with actor George Takei and actress Majel Barrett (STAR TREK) and
cinematographer Richard Kline.
Wednesday, March 26 7:15 PM
I WANT TO LIVE!, 1958, UA, 120
min. Director Robert Wises amazingly lucid indictment of capital punishment
is fueled by Susan Haywards high octane, Oscar-winning performance as Barbara
Graham. The final recreation of the gas chamber shows Wises precise realism at its
most unnerving extreme. With Simon Oakland. Discussion following
with actor Theodore Bikel and actress Virginia Vincent (schedule permitting).